As a retailer, you are likely focused on the fourth quarter — lining up promotions, ordering inventory, and readying your fulfillment processes. Now is time to also start preparing your affiliates.
Here are five pointers to ensure your affiliate channel is optimized and ready for the busy holiday period.
Gift guides are articles or online collages with 5 to 10 products that you anticipate will be top-selling gifts this holiday season. Each product should have an image, a product description, and a price. Gift guides should also target different demographics, such as Gifts for Mom, Gifts for Kids, and Gifts for College Students.
Most importantly, each product should be pre-coded with the affiliate’s tracking link. Every affiliate network enables merchants to create a tracking link that will populate the affiliate’s ID. An affiliate network support team can explain how to do this.
Additionally, include a tracking link back to your home page, so that if none of the recommended products appeals to the affiliate’s visitor, she can still easily click to your site to browse other offerings.
By providing pre-coded gift guides, content affiliates will be able to easily incorporate your products into their holiday posts.
Bestseller storefronts are simply a collection of products, including images, product descriptions and price, that you anticipate will be top sellers this holiday season — without regard to demographics. Like the gift guides, these are also pre-coded with the affiliate’s tracking links.
Provide bestseller storefronts to affiliates early on in the holiday season so they can identify upcoming trends. Remember that content affiliates are influencers. They often spur consumer demand.
By informing these affiliates of anticipated bestsellers, you are enabling them to become trendsetters. They can post these storefronts directly onto their sites. And they can also create a unique post based on trends they spot across all the retail partners they work with.
Black Friday Promotions
One of the biggest challenges affiliates face is promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Retailers are often hesitant to share in advance Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals with affiliates — to maintain surprise and confidentiality. However, by not providing this information in advance, retailers prevent affiliates from promoting it. Most affiliates look to have Black Friday posts written and scheduled in advance of the shopping season.
… by not providing this information in advance, retailers prevent affiliates from promoting it.
There are two ways to overcome this. The first is to create a trusted group of affiliates to share in advance information and collateral. When I do this, I put affiliates under embargo. I let them know that if they violate the embargo, they will lose all commissions, and will be removed from the program entirely. I have never had an affiliate violate an embargo.
Another solution is to create dynamic banners, which you provide to affiliates in advance of the Black Friday weekend. These banners can promote your generic brand or current promotions. But on Black Friday, you update them in the affiliate platform to reflect Black Friday promotions. Affiliates can place the banners on their sites now, knowing that the banners will update automatically when Black Friday promotions are live.
The challenge with gift cards is that your affiliate tracking pixel may be awarding commission on sales of gift cards, and then awarding commission again on purchases made with gift cards. This means that you are paying twice on the same dollar of revenue.
There are two ways to solve this. The first is to not pay commission on the sale of gift cards. Alternately, you can choose to not pay commission on the portion of the transaction charged to a gift card. With either approach, update your terms and services so that affiliates are aware.
If you pay commission on the sale of gift cards, tout it to affiliates during the fourth quarter and provide them with promotional collateral to drive gift card sales. Gift cards are popular during the holiday season. Affiliates often highlight retailers that offer them.
Finally, many affiliates will feature last minute holiday gift recommendations, which often include gift cards. If you provide electronic gift cards, let your affiliates know, including whether you pay commission on transactions from electronic gift cards.
Affiliates are a part of your marketing team. It’s a challenging role for them. If they don’t know of upcoming promotions, they cannot align their marketing efforts with yours.
Even if you can’t share the full details of a promotion because they aren’t finalized yet, try to provide affiliates with a general timeline of upcoming promotions. Let them know, for example, that you’ll be running something for Black Friday, and that you’ll provide the information as soon as possible.
Be in constant communication with your affiliates so that they feel included, not excluded. This not only helps with fourth quarter efforts, but also creates an ongoing, profitable partnership.
Be in constant communication with your affiliates so that they feel included, not excluded.
Also, affiliates often operate with incomplete information. When they log into their affiliate platform, they’ll see how many clicks they drove, how many purchases were made, and how much commission they earned. But they cannot track what products their readers purchased. Provide this information to them, to help them promote the products their readers are interested in.
In short, for your affiliate marketing channel to perform well during holiday crunch time, provide your affiliates with the tools and information they need to promote your products. Affiliates will respond to retailers that strive to build a true, long-lasting partnership.